Monday, March 16, 2009

When it comes to Manny Pacquiao,
fans are just knockout-passionate

[photo credits: Janine Chavez]

By: Yong B. Chavez

He enters a room, and immediately, loud applause and cheering break out. And that's just the press room.

As soon as Manny Pacquiao was sighted at a public appearance in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, the boxing superstar, who was looking dapper in an Amerkana, was besieged by the most tenacious sort of crowd: the autograph seekers and picture-posers.

They jostle and jockey to get his attention, shoving a piece of paper, a picture, a pair of kiddie gloves, even a guitar, in front of him. The clamoring appeared interminable.

"Manny, pa-sign! Manny. Manny! MANNY!" They yelled louder when he had to stop signing and posing to go do his previously arranged celebrity chore.

On that particular day he was accepting a plaque of recognition from no less than the mayor of the second largest city in the United States. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, possibly the next "celebrity" California governor after Arnold, has plenty of public and camera appeal. He just won his reelection without breaking a sweat, previous marriage scandal notwithstanding. Villaraigosa is just that successful and popular.

But even the shine of the mayor's star in his own city was easily eclipsed by Manny's.

It was interesting to see Villaraigosa get a bit flustered when an insistent Manny fan kept on egging his idol to sign a shirt while Villaraigosa was making a speech. Later, while addressing the crowd onstage, the mayor had to gently shush the enthusiastic cheers for Manny so that he could finish his own tribute to the boxer.

In Pac-land, that ever-growing space that Pacmanians call home, there's never a question of who the star is and how far they would go just to be near him.

Exhibit A: Pushing her way into a tight circle of reporters chronicling Pacquiao's every move, a lola was nonchalantly risking suffocation and multiple fractures just to be near the boxer.

"MANNY!" She screamed like a tween girl at a Jonas Brothers concert. It was over the top and completely normal at the same time. That's just the way it is for Manny Pacquiao and his adoring public.

And who could blame the fans' enthusiasm? Pacquiao is a bona fide megastar, and not just to Filipinos.

He is now part of American pop culture. At a recent Flashpoint episode, one of the leads in the CBS TV show mentions that he spent his weekend watching a Manny Pacquiao fight.

"It was brutal," the character said, seemingly surprised. Well, any boxing follower can tell him Pacquiao's fights always are.

But one of the things that make Pacman so darn likable to fans is that he keeps his brutal moves inside the boxing ring. In person, he gives off a completely non-threatening, friendly and polite vibe.

Exhibit B: At the same event, I sort of winced when a too-excited guy tapped Manny's shoulders with a little more force than he probably (I hope) intended to get Manny's attention. Dude, the man has beaten up boxing legends, what were you thinking?

But Manny just looked over his shoulders and shook the man's proffered hand. All in a day's work.

He's funny, too. After seeing what must have been a lengthy prepared speech, he said with his mic on, "Sasabihin ko ba ito lahat?"

When his audience laughed, he added that public speaking makes him much more nervous than boxing for his life during his bloody fights.

To see him interact with his fans – signing and shaking hands and smiling likes there's no tomorrow – is to understand why he is so idolized. He never seems to intentionally ignore anyone, a wicked trick found in some douche-y celebs' goodie bag. And when he connects, there's a sincerity that looks as if it naturally oozes out of him. It must be his humble roots or the God-fearing way he was raised by his nanay. Or maybe he's just a really decent guy.

Others can say that, sometimes, he can be detached and unengaged, and they might be correct, too. He is human, after all.

But one thing he isn't is a trash-talker. For us reporters always looking for good sound bites, that isn't exactly good news. But it is a refreshing celebrity attitude.

Told that his upcoming fight opponent Ricky Hatton downplayed his victory over boxing legend Oscar dela Hoya, Pacquiao's famously mustached lip just curled up into a smile.

"Hatton said that he's better than dela Hoya," a reporter presses, "do you agree that he is better than dela Hoya?"

"Totoo naman na magaling s'ya at hindi pwedeng i-underestimate. Pero pareho rin siguro. Boxer din s'ya, at may dalawa rin lang kamay," is all a still smiling Pacquiao would say about Hatton. The two are slated to go mano-a-mano on May 2 at the MGM Grand garden arena in Las Vegas.

Well, here's hoping Hatton doesn't think the same way and treat Pacquiao like "another boxer with two hands" because that would be a bloody mistake. I don't think the British bruiser will do that, as all evidence point to him as being a savvy fighter.

But apart from Pacquiao's might, he should also be prepared to face a tough crowd of Pacmanians come fight night. They will be there, autograph paraphernalia and unceasing devotion on hand.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fraud Prevention Tips

(This is FilipinOnline's second in a series of posts about avoiding fraud. The first one dealt with fraud victim resources. Below is a Balitang America story I did about alleged fraud victims. - Yong B. Chavez)

And now, from the police, here are a few prevention tips to help minimize your risk of becoming a victim to a scam or other scheme:

Residents are reminded never to participate in street transactions, as they may involve lost/stolen property.

Call 9-1-1 if you are approached by anyone on the street regarding a transaction or business arrangement (i.e. car dent repair, painting, or lawn fertilizer services), especially if they are asking for money upfront. Check with the California Department of Consumer Affairs at (800) 952-5210 or for the license status of any contractor.

Call 9-1-1 if you are approached by anyone on the street regarding a transaction or business arrangement (i.e. car dent repair, painting, or lawn fertilizer services), especially if they are asking for money upfront. Check with the California Department of Consumer Affairs at (800) 952-5210 or for the license status of any contractor.

Seniors should be weary of strangers engaging them in conversation as you exit the bank, grocery store, or shopping area. Thieves specializing in real estate fraud, credit card fraud or other scams target the elderly at these locations looking for their next victim. Be cautious of any unsolicited stranger that offers "caretaking services" such as medical or financial errands. If you hire anyone as a "caretaker" always check references and discuss it with a family member, neighbor or trusted friend.

Refrain from accepting checks from unsolicited Internet based communications. Thieves scour Internet auction sites and draw victims in under false pretenses. Report any suspicious Internet fraud schemes to the National White Collar Crime Task Force at (800) 352-3221 or

Residents should be reminded never to let people they don’t know into their homes under any circumstances, unless they can verify their legitimacy. If residents observe any suspicious persons or activity, they should call police immediately.

Now that summer has arrived, residents are encouraged to keep their windows/doors locked at all times, and to invest in window/door securing devices that allow for proper ventilation.
· Keep track of your bank ATM/Debit card(s) and purchases. “Skimming” is a scheme where a device is used to capture account and personal information encoded on magnetic strips, which has become prevalent throughout the country. Make sure the cashier or restaurant server returns your card in a reasonable time frame. “Skimmers” are mostly used in restaurants and bars.

· When entering your “PIN” number, shield the keypad with your hand so others do not see what you are keying

· If you opt to donate to a charity, initiate the gesture on your own and beware of charity organization phone solicitors. State laws and Long Beach Municipal Codes prohibit the collection of unlawful donations. When in doubt of the truthfulness of a donation being solicited, you may ask the petitioner to present an identification card, which confirms that the solicitor has been validated. You may also request a written receipt for your contribution that is to be signed by the solicitor. This does not apply to a person who is soliciting on their own property or evangelical, missionary, or religious organizations.

If you are contacted by anyone claiming to be from the lottery, simply state they are not interested and hang up. Personal information should never be released or confirmed over the phone. If contacted by a bank, phone numbers provided by the caller should never be relied upon to verify their identity. Legitimate phone numbers can be obtained from bank statements and then called to verify the caller’s name, employee number, and purpose for calling.

The Long Beach Police Department suggests that you check and confirm the identification of anyone who requests to enter your property. Call the Police if you suspect any fraudulent or suspicious activity is occurring and keep an eye on any of your elderly neighbors who might be targeted by unscrupulous criminals preying on unsuspecting residents.

With the surge of reported identity theft cases, consumers are urged to take extra precautions to secure their personal information:
· Do not imprint social security or driver’s license numbers on your personal checks
Never give out your social security number or credit card account over the telephone unless you initiated the call
· Do not write your PIN number onto your ATM/Debit card or other credit cards
· Shred financial documents, including promotional “pre-approved” credit card applications
· Shred your printed ATM and sales receipts that list your account number
· Do not leave outgoing mail at your mailbox for the postal carrier to pick-up
· Keep track of and review all of your bank/credit card statements for irregular activity
Order a copy of your credit profile annually from all three (3) credit bureau reporting agencies, Experian (888) 397-3742, Trans Union (800) 680-7289, and Equifax (800) 525-6285, and review for unusual activity

If you suspect you or a loved one is an elder abuse victim (either financial or physical), please contact the Long Beach Police Department’s Forgery/Fraud Detail at (562) 570-7330 and/or Adult Protective Services at (877) 477-3646 and report the incident. California Penal Code section 368 defines an elder as an individual over the age 65 or a dependent adult (mental or physical limitations that restricts normal activities) between the ages of 18 and 64.